Coach keeps word, loses beard when Middle Park soccer ties school record

Middle Park boys soccer coach Dane Ruttenberg shaved his
beard Saturday for the second time in 25 years.

About 10 years ago, the coach recalled, he was trimming his
goatee, went a little too far and had to shave it all off. The result was one of
his children punched him while the other stormed out of the room in a fit of rage.

“My family does not like me clean shaven,” Ruttenberg

On Saturday, the soccer coach had another run-in with the clippers, though it was no accident this time around.

With Middle Park’s 5-0 shutout victory over Aspen in Granby,
the boys tied the school record for most wins in a regular season at 10, and their
reward — an extension cord running to a set of clippers on the sideline — awaited
them after the game.

“Coming into the year, I knew this team was special,” Ruttenberg

He’s been with the program since its creation in 1996 and said
he knew — with 12 seniors on the roster — this year could be one for the books.
“But when you don’t have a history of success, it can be hard for the players
to believe it,” the coach continued, as he explained he wanted to incentivize their

With that, Ruttenberg said he asked his team after the Lake
County game, a contest the Panthers won 5-1, what they wanted from him if they
made it to the state tournament this year. Their answer was a good shave for
the coach.

‘So I said, ‘OK, I’ll shave my beard,’” Ruttenberg recalled
before adding one caveat to the deal. “And then I increased it (on Saturday) by
saying, ‘OK, now you’re going to do it.’”

And so the Panthers took turns one by one removing the
coach’s beard swipe by swipe after defeating Aspen. As the trimming progressed,
so too did the funny styles on the coach’s face, until finally he took over and
finished off the job.

“They earned it,” the coach said. “They worked really hard
this season.”

Throughout the year, Middle Park has dominated many of its opponents
in the team’s 10 wins. The Panthers have also fought through some close
contests, securing 3-2 victories over KIPP Denver Collegiate and Bruce Randolph,
while suffering a couple heartbreaking losses, none tougher than 1-0 in double
overtime vs. Arrupe Jesuit.

Still, Ruttenberg saw the Panthers show amazing heart in that
loss, and overall he said he’s been superbly impressed by the boys’ perseverance
this year. Technically, the team may have stumbled at times, but the coach has
never once thought his boys have shown a lack of effort.

The season’s not over yet. The Panthers will look to break
the school’s record for most wins in a regular season with two more games on
the road. If Middle Park wins out, which Ruttenberg believes his team can do,
the Panthers could end the season 12-3 with the team hosting the school’s first-ever
state playoff game at home. For the Panthers, a run in the playoffs could also
be in the mix.

Asked how he’ll remember the seniors on the team, Ruttenberg paused as he thought about the question and his players. “I can’t talk about it,” he said with tears building. “I love them — they’re great guys.”